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Mike Zimmer Details Emergency Eye Surgery, Current Plan

Posted Dec 6, 2016

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer returned to work at Winter Park on Monday after a trying week.

Zimmer wore a bandage over his right eye during Tuesday’s practice. He had emergency eye surgery for a detached retina Wednesday night and did not coach in Thursday’s 17-15 home loss against Dallas.

He had a follow-up procedure Friday morning and received a good report from his doctor on Saturday.

Minnesota’s third-year head coach noted the plan as of Tuesday afternoon is for him to travel to Jacksonville this weekend to coach the Vikings, although that could change if more issues arise in his eye.

Zimmer, who spoke with Dan Barreiro on The Dan Barreiro Show on KFAN 100.3-FM, said he’s dealt with a mix of emotions since Wednesday’s surgery.

“I feel like I’ve let a lot of people down — players, fans, coaches — because there’s a lot of people counting on me,” Zimmer told Barreiro. “That makes it a little bit more difficult.”

Zimmer first had a surgery done Nov. 1 and said last month he had needles stuck in his eye for another procedure.

Zimmer was scheduled to have a third procedure last Friday but had trouble with his vision after the Vikings walkthrough on Wednesday, pushing up the date by two days.

“I basically asked the doctor, ‘Is there a chance of me going blind before Friday?’ He didn’t think so, and we had the walkthrough Wednesday afternoon,” Zimmer said. “I went home and was looking at my game sheets and things that I do and I could tell that my vision was getting worse.

“So I called (Vikings Head Athletic Trainer) Eric Sugarman, and he called the doctor. He said he was coming back by his office at 5:30 and that I should meet him there,” Zimmer added. “He told me not to eat or drink anything in case I had to have surgery. Basically, my field of vision was declining very much. They took a scan and said, ‘We need to get you over and get you operated on.’ ”

Zimmer spoke with his team before Thursday night’s game in what he called an “emotional” message.

Zimmer said he told the Vikings, “I would never let them down and that I would never abandon them and that I’d be with them every possible moment that I could be. It was just unfortunate that this is how it had to be for this one particular time.”

Instead of being on the sideline at U.S. Bank Stadium, Zimmer watched on television as the Vikings wouldn’t convert a game-tying, 2-point conversion with 25 seconds left as Minnesota dropped to 6-6.

“I was supposed to not get excited and things like that, and I did a pretty good job for the most part until kind of the end of the football game,” Zimmer said. “It was hard, I guess, but maybe it gave me a little different perspective on seeing the team play as well.

“Obviously I wish I would have been there to have the opportunity to try and help the football team the best I could,” he added. “But I think coaches did a good job throughout the course of the ball game. And obviously the players, for the most part, did some good things.”

Zimmer said he is currently planning on traveling to Jacksonville for Sunday’s noon (CT) game against the 2-10 Jaguars.

Zimmer said his doctor injected an oil-based substance in his eye, noting that an oxygen-based substance would have prevented him from flying.

“The report Saturday was the retina is attached, it looks great, everything looks good,” Zimmer said. “Again, I’m going in, I have to have this monitored probably weekly for the next several months.

“I’m planning on being in Jacksonville, yes, unless, I mean I could go there this afternoon and the guy could say, ‘We need to do this surgery again.’ I mean there’s a lot of speculation that could happen,” Zimmer later added. “Or, he could say, ‘You’re good to go. Go ahead. Enjoy yourself, whatever,’ so there’s still a lot to be determined as we continue to move forward.”

Zimmer’s players voiced their support for the Vikings head coach on Tuesday.

“He is one tough dude,” said left guard Alex Boone. “Knowing Zim’, I would expect nothing less. He’s the toughest guy I know. I’m just happy that he’s back.”

Added cornerback Captain Munnerlyn: “I’ll go into a fight with him all day because he wants to win so bad.”

Vikings defensive end Brian Robison quipped that Zimmer’s eye patch made him look like the mascot for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But players said Zimmer’s bandage didn’t change his demeanor or attitude at practice.

“Even with one patch over his eye, if you make a mistake, he’ll still see it,” Munnerlyn said. “He just loves football and knows how to put himself in position to see everything on the field still.”

Zimmer did tell Barreiro that he will be extra cautious about his health going forward, and urged people to see a doctor if they experience any type of vision trouble.

“I’m going to do what the doctors tell me to do,” Zimmer said. “I understand the seriousness of the issue and what it is.

“If they tell me it’s in my best interest to sit in [the coaches’] box during the game or in my best interest to not go to the game or there’s a possibility of me losing my eyesight in this eye, then I’m going to listen to them,” he added. “I think there’s a lot of speculation out there that says I’m not doing what the doctors are telling me to do, and I don’t believe that’s right.”